Just seven days after one of the best Saturdays of college football in a long time, a devastating injury to highly rated quarterback Tua Tagovailoa marred what were several exciting games. Still, the week was highlighted by outstanding performances from next-level prospects, including a number of receivers. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 12.
2020 NFL Draft Risers
Hamilcar Rashed Jr/OLB/Oregon State: In the midst of a career year, Rashed is gaining a lot of momentum in scouting circles out west. His stats this season are insane and include 60 tackles, 22.5 TFL’s, and 14 sacks. During the win against Arizona State, a victory that leaves the Beavers on the cusp of a bowl berth, he totaled 7/4/2. Rashed is tall, thin, and very athletic. His sacks are as much a result of opportunity as they are big plays, but Rashed continues to impact games. He needs to fill out his frame and keep his quickness, but Rashed has top 100 potential when he enters the draft.
DeVonta Smith/WR/Alabama: Lost during the injury to Tua Tagovailoa, which overshadowed everything this weekend, was the terrific performance by Smith against a talented Mississippi State secondary. Smith finished with 6 receptions for 92 yards and turned in multiple big plays early in the game as Alabama built a four-touchdown lead before halftime. Smith often gets lost in the shuffle to Jerry Jeudy, but he has the size, pass-catching skills, and speed to be a top 50 selection. As reported during Saturday’s game day blog, I have been told Smith will enter the draft once the season concludes.
Zack Baun/LB/Wisconsin: Baun is an athletic linebacker best in space yet miscast in the Badgers’ 3-4 alignment. Yet he’s shown consistent improvement in the scheme and had one of his best games of the season against Nebraska. Braun’s totals included 4 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 2 sacks, 2 QBH’s and 1 PBU. He’s a fluid linebacker who covers a lot of area on the field and will be a solid day three pick for a team needing an outside 4-3 linebacker.
Ben Bredeson/G/Michigan: The better Michigan’s offensive line plays, the more dominant the Wolverines have been the past two months. And Bredeson, the senior leader of the group, is playing better each week. He offers size, football intelligence, and a nice degree of power. Graded as a day three pick coming into the season, some area scouts now feel Bredeson could move into the third round of the draft based on his play this year.
Walter Fletcher/RB/Ball State: Fletcher was my featured prospect on Friday, and he stood out in what was a last-minute loss for Ball State. He finished the game with 115 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.7-yard average) and added 2 receptions for 39 yards. While Fletcher has no outstanding physical trait in his game, he does everything reasonably well and has the skills to make an NFL roster as a fourth running back.
Sleeper Prospect- Antonio Gibson/WR/Memphis: The Tigers have one of the most explosive offenses in college football and Gibson is part of the reason why. Transferring from East Central CC two years ago, Gibson has really watched his game take off after posting just 6 receptions last season. Thus far in 2019, he has totaled 23 receptions for 574 yards with 7 TD’s and came up big against Houston with 4 receptions for 93 yards. While I doubt Gibson is selected in the draft, he’s someone who will earn a free-agent contract, which few thought possible just four months ago.
Small School Prospect- J.J. Koski/WR/Cal-Poly: Graded as a priority free agent before the season, Koski has raised his game and displays himself as a big-play threat on the small-school level. In ten games this season, Koski has posted 40 receptions for 857 yards (21.4 yard average) with 8 TD’s, better than a year ago when he averaged 20.2 yards on 33 receptions. Much of his final draft positioning hinges on how fast he runs the forty in workouts, but expect Koski to fight for a roster spot next summer.
2020 NFL Draft Sliders
Reggie Walker/Edge/Kansas State: While his stat line against West Virginia wasn’t bad and included 3 tackles, 2 TFL’s as well as 1 sack, it’s been a disappointing season for the senior who was graded as a potential late-round pick. For the year Walker has 24 tackles, 4 TFL’s and 1 sack. He showed flashes as a sophomore, but Walker has never elevated his game or showed much consistency since then.
Aleva Hifo/WR/BYU: Hifo is another who entered the season graded as a late-round prospect but hasn’t met expectations. Prior to Saturday’s game, which he missed with injury, Hifo had totaled 32 reception, 406 yards and 3 TD’s in nine games. That’s slightly better than a year ago yet still down from his sophomore season of 2017 when Hifo jumped on the scouting radar.
Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365. For more of Tony Pauline’s Risers & Sliders, check out our archives.